The Russian Air Force Is Protecting Its Strategic Bombers With Car Tires

Tu-95MS strategic bomber of the Russian Air Force landing, Zhukovsky, Russia.

Photo: Artyom Anikeev/Stocktrek Images (iStock by Getty Images)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been a horrific conflict that has unleashed devastation across large swaths of Europe’s second-largest country. The war has also left the Russian Armed Forces struggling to protect its aging collection of irreplaceable military vehicles and material from Ukrainian attacks. Now. the invading air force has sorted to using tires to obscure its parked strategic bombers from drones.

Maxar satellite imagery obtained by CNN shows Tupolev Tu-95 bombers parked out on open tarmac covered in car tires. The pair of four-engined turboprop bombers were stationed at Engels Air Base, roughly 300 miles west of the Ukrainian border. The tires are clearly meant to protect the planes from attack, but it’s not precisely clear how.

Francisco Serra-Martins, the Co-CEO of a company supplying drones to Ukrainian forces, told CNN:

“It may reduce the thermal signature for exposed strategic aviation assets placed on airfield aprons, but they will still be observable under infrared cameras. While it seems pretty goofy, they seem to be trying to do the best they can to up-armor the planes that are otherwise sitting ducks. Whether it works depends on what the warhead is on the missile/drone.”

The 1950s Cold War-era Tu-95 bombers likely aren’t being flown over the skies of Ukraine, but the massive aircraft are still valuable assets for the Russian military. Tupolev produced the last Tu-95 during the early 1990s, but the manufacturer has continued to modernize the turboprop bomber into the 21st century as they remain in military service.

With money still being poured into the irreplaceable airframes, the Tu-95 has proved to be a perfect target to wear away Russia’s fighting capabilities. With the desperate measures being taken to minimize losses, it’s clear that the country’s military leadership can’t afford to lose those planes.